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<eyebeam><blast> net criticism / the structure of the web

when geert/nettime sez that "Art is a dead end street when it comes to a
better understanding of the emerging cyber economy," and that art is
obsessed "with all kinds of bio metaphors [the rhizome?]," he may be
correct. however, it seems that his greater interest is politics. and if
that is the case, then perhaps the "emerging cyber economy" is a dead
end street when it comes to a better understanding of the political --
especially since the categories of globalization and cyber economy
themselves are still under debate. perhaps, to understand the political,
one needs to stop looking at the economic alone and start looking at a
more complex social space. haven't we already learned this lesson?

+ + +

Sjoukje van der Meulen asked:

>"How useful, for example, would be the work of Barthes and Derrida as a
>starting point for analysing hypertext? What is the importance of
>Deleuze & Guattari's influential idea of the rhizome as a philosophical
>framework for the web?"

the rhizome may be an inspiring metaphor, or "geographical imaginary,"
for us as we think about the structure of the web.

but i am still conflicted about whether the web itself is truly

on the one hand, the web is structured around rigid protocols that
govern the transfer and representation of texts and images--so the web
isn't "an acentered, nonheirarchical, nonsignifying system" as is the
rhizome. but on the other hand, the web seems to mirror several of the
key characteristics of the rhizome: any point is potentially (but never)
connected to any other point, there is the rule of multiplicity, the
ability to splinter off/graft on at any point, the rejection of a "deep
structure," etc.

one reason for the debate is that, commonly, the web is described as a
free, structureless network. however the rhizome is clearly not the
absence of structure. it is the negation of a certain kind of structure,
the tree. so, to equate the web and the rhizome we need to argue against
those who describe the web as a free, structureless network. we need to
argue for a certain kind of rhizomatic protocol on the web.

i guess i am more interested in this set of questions: what is at stake
in claiming that the web is or is not a rhizome? what do we have to take
for granted to believe one side or the other of this question?

and btw, barthes and derrida are not useful at all. ;-)

-alex galloway

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